Kiel Entertainment (studio)
22 October 2018 (released)
26 October 2018
Kiel has developed some of the highest-octane games over the last decade including the infamous and blood thirsty Shank. However, in 2012 they decided to go for the subtler approach and rather than gun fights and carnage, went for shadowy tactics and stealth. Mark of the Ninja was highly praised for the time and now, like most games has been “Remastered” for this current Generation. Does it still hold up as the renowned stealth masterpiece?
Let’s find out.
For those who know what Shank is, it’s pretty much an immense action flick, compressed into an over the top yet highly thrilling action game. So, it was a weird culture shock of sorts when they produced Mark of the Ninja. I was personally in two minds about the game on its original release, yet I enjoyed what I played. Coming into it again after 6 years and I can say that these guys are very talented whether they’re crafting a game where the focus is either action or stealth.
Mark of the Ninja tells a coming of age tale centred on revenge and honour. Playing as a nameless ninja, you find yourself thrown into a war between your clan a merciless industrialist. Ninjas have been mass executed and captured and now it’s up to you and your trainer to infiltrate various compounds and track down and kill your target.
The story is nothing special, following a very simple formula of plot devices and events which any inexperienced game writer could pull out in a weekend. But story telling was never Kiel’s strong point nor was it ever the true focus. It’s easy enough to understand motivations and grasp our leading character’s intentions.
While the story is very basic, the accompanying art style is visual striking, with hand drawn animations and visuals that make it as though you’re watching a comic book come to life. The animation is beautiful to put it in simple terms and has a great level of depth from the use of lighting and sound. Sounds will produce visual bubbles, differing in the level of sound and this acts a visual feedback for yourself and when tracking enemy movements. Useful and looks rather stylish as well.
The use of light and shadow is rather interesting both visually and heightens aspects of gameplay. It’s a nice method of visual feedback as you’ll and other objects in the shadows will be bathed in black. This makes your level of detection easy to understand and ensures you keep out of well-lit areas as best as possible.
In terms of gameplay, Mark of the Ninja manages to combine many different elements and evolves tactics and playstyles as you progress. You can go through all levels with the highest level of stealth, even going so far as to not kill anyone (bosses excluded) or just straight out murder everyone. However this is not always the best approach and there’s something immensely satisfying about ghosting your way through an entire level, like a true ninja.
What is incredible is the amount of depth to the stealth, as you’ll often find multiple ways to tackle each situation (for the most part) and even take your ninja skills to the next level by basically becoming Batman. Using fear to trigger your enemies into terrified and jumpy shells of their former selves is a great tactic and a great deal of fun to watch unfold.
By staging the bodies of their fallen comrades, enemies will begin to behaviour hysterically and even fire off shots at their fellow team mates.
As the game progresses, new skills are unlocked, new suits and new enemy tactics are employed. The expansive range of tools and skills keeps the gameplay from becoming tedious and allows players to adapt new tactics and see what works the best for them. This increases the replay value as it’s tempting to try out different tools in various situations and even perfecting the ultimate run in any level. There are even a few neat set pieces and segments which include light lateral elements. But overall the game is a giant puzzle of sorts as you work out the best approach for each encounter, whether you terrorise, kill or simply ghost your way past the problem.
There were some moments when a situation made the outcome extremely difficult to overcome, normally forcing you to most likely kill whoever is in the way. But there was never a moment I couldn’t do it stealth-fully. But if you wanted to complete this game as a ghost then prepare to retry certain moments a lot.
This also brings me to the only main fault of the game and that is the tedious moments of trial and error. Often having to repeat the same section in order to test and try out the various ways to beat an encounter.
Otherwise Mark of the Ninja is an immense amount of fun and truly stands the test of time as one of the best stealth games in the last decade. It’s worth checking out even if you’re not into stealth games. Plus is has all the awesome DLC included as well.
++ Great variation of gameplay mechanics
+ Awesome art style and sound design
- Story is uninteresting
A PS4 review copy of Mark of the Ninja Remastered was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review